I Saw Eternity - Contemporary Canadian Choral Music
Timothy CORLIS (b. 1972)
Leonard ENNS (b. 1948)
I Saw Eternity
Peter TIEFENBACH (b. 1960)
Nunc Dimittis
Missa Brevis
Timothy CORLIS
To See the Cherry Hung With Snow
Paul HALLEY (b. 1952)
Bring Us, O Lord God
Craig GALBRAITH (b. 1975)
Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence
Marjan MOZETICH (b. 1947)
Flying Swans
Mark G. SIRETT (b. 1952)
Bless the Lord for the Good Land
Glenn BUHR (b. 1954)
Agnus Dei
Imant RAMINSH (b. 1943)
Psalm 23
Stephen CHATMAN (b. 1950)
Michael Bloss (organ); Leslie De’Ath (piano); John Marshman (cello); Stephen Pierre (clarinet); Elora Festival Singers/Noel Edison
rec. 7-10 April 2011, Church of St. John the Evangelist, Elora, Ontario, Canada. DDD
NAXOS 8.572812 [73.58] 

This is the ninth recording by Noel Edison and his Elora Festival Singers for Naxos. Excepting their Christmas album, each recording has focused on a particular composer, and each CD has rightly met with considerable critical acclaim. This recording is the first to feature the works of several Canadian composers, all of the music written in the last few decades. Many of the works were written for, or premiered by, this choir.

The CD opens with a setting of the Gloria by Timothy Corlis. The choir’s opening fortissimo chord is impressively projected, but the music quickly winds down to a more tentative, gentler mood. Soon a piano enters with driving ostinato figures that inject greater energy and movement into the vocal writing. Switching between Latin and English, the music alternates between active and static, finally building to a sustained climax at 5:30 as the choir sings “Alleluia,” a word that is not part of the traditional Gloria text.
The slowly shifting cluster chords of I Saw Eternity are reminiscent of Eric Whitacre’s music, and the choir sings it with rapt intensity. This style of music requires, and here receives, spotless intonation. After these two weightier works, Tiefenbach’s Nunc Dimittis is touchingly simple, with choral lines lying within a narrow range until the word “light,” where the voices suddenly divide into a widely spaced chord, a perfect setting of the word, beautifully realized in this performance.
Henderson’s Missa Brevis features more concentrated chromaticism and rhythmic complexity, as does Galbraith’s Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence. Towards the end of the motet, Galbraith introduces subtle echoes of “Picardy,” the hymn tune usually wed to this text. This leads to a thrilling climax with the word “Alleluia”, as the hymn tune is finally heard in full.

Suffice to say that these 13 selections on this CD provide a generous sampling of the variety of compositional styles found in contemporary Canadian choral music. The Elora Festival Singers inhabit each style fully and with apparent ease. Their singing is consistently beautiful, the sections well balanced, with unified ensemble singing and crisp diction. In several of the works, sopranos and tenors are asked to sing in a high tessitura, yet they never sound strained or overly bright. And in Bless the Lord for the Good Land, the basses display an impressive low range that would be the envy of many Russian choirs. While the instrumentalist’s contribution is minimal, their playing is as excellent and as sensitive as the singing.
The recording itself is well engineered, capturing the choir in a warm ambiance that nevertheless allows for textual clarity. Noel Edison obviously believes in this music and he elicits interpretations of passion and refinement in equal measure. This is well-crafted and profound music that is performed with great conviction and beauty.
David A. McConnell 

Passion and refinement in equal measure.